On birth and death

Birthing stories have always made me misty eyed. Even before I had kids I loved the idea of receiving this little human being into the world amidst stress and pain and finding out that you love this little person already, because how couldn’t you?

Now that I HAVE kids I can’t watch a movie or read a book with a birthing scene without turning into a mushy mess.

Let me clarify, I am not a sap. But I do love babies. My mom REALLY loved babies, she was crazy about them, so I guess it could be either an inherited trait or a learned behavior or (gasp) even both?!?

I was an only child and my mom had started worrying that I would put off having kids for ever. She was thrilled to know that I was ready to start a family and wanted more than 2 kids. She was around for the birth of my first, and relished every second she had with her new and only granddaughter. She always envisioned herself being there enjoying my children. We would talk about it often.

Her time with my first newborn was cut short because my grandmother passed away suddenly, and my mom had to go back to Puerto Rico to deal with the funeral arrangements. She had been my grandmothers caregiver during the previous 5 years and felt disappointed with the timing of my grandmothers passing. She explained that she wanted to be there in her last days. But there weren’t any “last days”! (I wanted to point out) She died in her sleep! (I wanted to rationalize). But I wasn’t about to argue with my mother about anything. I felt grief as well. A selfish kind of grief: I would have loved for my grandmother to meet my new baby.

My mom was visiting with me again when I was pregnant with my second child. My dad had passed away, and she was looking forward to spending a significant amount of the year living with us. I was excited as well. No one loved my firstborn the way she did. But she passed away, in my home, before that second birth.

With this birth story I came undone. She wasn’t able to hold my second girl, to press her against her cheek, to smell her. She wasn’t able to marvel at the tiny fingernails or laugh at every little piglet squeal and grunt. I grieved deeply while I got to know this little being who somehow seemed to understand that I was broken inside.

With the birth of my third (and last) girl I felt that my birth story had less grief and more joy. Still I find myself staring at my little one, imagining the magnitude with which my mother would love her.

I could have ten babies! But that would be unfeasible for a myriad of reasons, one of them being that babies turn into toddlers and then go to college. Having this be my last also makes me grieve. I feel like every coo or gurgle could be the last. Every little wrinkle will stretch and soon this baby will be running with the rest of my girls. I want to yell: PLEASE STOP GROWING!

I find myself being disappointed when I realize that I didn’t take a certain photo or record a certain video and that now things have changed and I will never be able to relive those little moments that have passed. But it’s futile to try to capture moments in order to hold on to them because every single moment -in its uniqueness- is the last and there’s not a thing we can do to stop that.

L.